Ani, Babylon, Pompeii: The must-visit ‘lost cities’

The ‘lost cities’ that you can still visit: MailOnline Travel has compiled a list of 10 must-visit ‘lost cities,’ guaranteed to satisfy everyone from history buffs to backpackers.

From the ancient city of Babylon in Iraq, also home to the mythical hanging gardens that have been named one of the Seven Ancient Wonders of the World, to the medieval Armenian ruins of Ani, Turkey, these civilizations of yesteryear are nothing short of awe-inspiring.

Ani, Turkey

The medieval Armenian ruins are situated in Kars, near the Akhurian River on the border of Armenia, and was once the capital of the Bagratid Armenian Kingdom.

Once a walled city with more than 100,000 residents, in the centuries that followed, the region was conquered many times – by everyone from Ottoman Turks to Russians – and was completely abandoned by the 1700s. 

One of its most famous monuments is the Monastery of the Hripsimian Virgins, which was thought to be built between 1000 and 1200 AD.

Persepolis, Iran

Persepolis, or ‘the city of Persians,’ dates back to 515 BC when it was once the ceremonial capital of the Achaemenid Empire.

Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979, the ruins lie at the foot of Kuh-i-Rahmat, or Mercy Mountains, near the city of Shiraz.

It was built on a half-artificial, half-natural terrace where a palace complex inspired by Mesopotamian models was developed by cutting into the rocky mountainside.

All that remains today is that which was not burned by the Greeks in 330 under the leadership of Alexander the Great.

Epecuen, Argentina 

This ghost town may not be ancient, but there was a time when many former residents were sure that it was lost forever.

Once a busting lakeside resort, the Argentinean town was flooded without warning in November 1985 when heavy rains caused the lagoon to burst its banks and submerged the small community in corrosive salt water.

Although the town was never rebuilt – most cafe owners and hoteliers simply moved to a nearby seaside town to set up shop – it’s now become a popular tourist destination once again, in particular for the Jewish community of Buenos Aires.

Ciudad Perdida, Colombia 

High in the Sierra Nevada mountains, the country’s Lost City has recently been dubbed ‘the new Machu Picchu,’ after being first discovered in the 1970s.

The site is believed to date back to about 800 AD, which is over 600 years earlier than the world’s most famous lost city to which many comparisons have been drawn.

Made up of 169 terraces, which are carved into the mountains, Ciudad Perdida, or Teyuna as its known by the local tribes, also boasts early tiled roads and several small plazas.

However, to access the ruins, guests must be in good shape as they will be required to climb up 1,200 stone steps through dense jungle.

Machu Picchu, Peru

This 15th century Inca site is a tourist favourite among those interested in exploring ancient cities, attracting over one million visitors last year alone.

Adventurers can choose from one of several multi-day treks that lead hikers deep into the Sacred Valley, though the Inca Trail is far and away the most popular.

Coaches are also available for those who are unable to climb the 500-year-old citadel and still wish to take in the impressive views.

Tour operators recommend arriving at dawn or dusk for the most breathtaking views and warn that between 11am and 3pm is busiest.

Babylon, Iraq

Founded 4,000 years ago, the ancient city was the capital of 10 dynasties in Mesopotamia, and its walls and mythic hanging gardens are considered to be one of the world’s original Seven Wonders.

Also believed to be the birthplace of writing and literature, due to unrest in the region in recent years, Babylon has not drawn as many visitors as expected from the far reaches of the globe.

The city is located 85km south of Baghdad and is accessible only after going through several security checkpoints.

Where once stood towering gates and a bustling market city packed with traders, now only remains remnants of the city’s walls and a 2,500-year-old statue of a lion.

The in-tact buildings at the ancient city are mainly ill-advised attempts by former dictator Saddam Hussein who tried to reconstruct monuments ‘to glorify Iraq’ and rebuilt the Nebuchadnezzar II palace on top of the original’s ruins. 

Angkor Wat, Cambodia

One of the most important archeological sites in Southeast Asia, Angkor stretches over 400 square kms and features the remains of several different capitals of the Khmer Empire.

All were constructed from between the 9th and 15th century, but the most famous are the Temple of Angkor Wat and the Bayon Temple.

The impressive monuments, ancient urban plans and large water reservoirs, as well as evidence of centuries-old communication routes, are all located in the Siem Reap Province and are indicative of an exceptional civilization.

Petra, Jordan

The historical city, located in the Ma’an governorate, is famous for its architecture, carved into the red sandstone rock, as well as for its ancient water conduit system.

Ideally situated between the Red Sea and the Dead Sea, Petra was once an important crossroads between Arabia, Egypt and Syria-Phoenicia.

The surrounding mountains are riddled with passages and gorges, though the UNESCO World Heritage Centre is subject to erosion due to wind, including windblown sand, and rain.

Pompeii, Italy

The ancient Roman town is situated near the current city of Naples, and researchers believe that it was founded as early as six century BC.

However, the impressive architecture was mostly buried and destroyed after the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD blanketed the region in burning pumice stone and ash.

Today, the ghostly ruins, which include an amphitheatre and a port, are one of the most popular tourist destinations in the country, drawing 2.5 million guests each year.

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